Sea Duty Allowance (SDA)

Topic

Sea Duty Allowance (SDA)

Case number

Description

A Canadian Forces member posted to one of Her Majesty's Canadian Ships is entitled to the Sea Duty Allowance (SDA) in accordance with Compensation and Benefits Instruction (CBI) 205.35(2). When that ship is in a theatre of operations, the ship's crew becomes entitled to the Hardship Allowance (HA) in accordance with the Military Foreign Service Instruction (MFSI), published as CBI 10.3.05. A message issued by the Director General Compensation and Benefits (DGCB) on 2 September 2003 announced that, although the HA could be paid in conjunction with the SDA, payment would not be made until, as directed by the Treasury Board (TB), the HA assessment form had been reviewed and adjusted to ensure that there was no double compensation. The DGCB stated that, until the review was complete, members had to elect to receive either HA or SDA, but not both.

The review was conducted five years later and the DGCB announced to the Director Maritime Personnel that no change to the benefits was warranted. During that time and even now, members are in receipt of only one of the two benefits as DGCB is of the view that paying both would amount to "double compensation". The Board has reviewed the regulations governing HA and SDA and has determined that these two benefits are intended to serve different purposes.

While there may be some commonality in the factors underlying both allowances, they clearly have different rationales. MFSI 10.3.05 state that the intent of the HA is to "compensate for the living conditions existing at a specific post." The MFSI goes on to provide for the establishment of a committee to establish an HA level "for the post" and to review the levels set for "each operation." HA, therefore, is operation specific and provides for seven levels of compensation depending on the austerity of the particular situation. In addition, MFSI 10.3.03(5) addresses the unique situation of ships by providing that entitlement to the HA only commences "upon the ship's arrival in the theatre of operations."

The SDA, on the other hand, is payable to a member for the entire duration of his/her posting to a ship. It is obviously intended to compensate for the discomforts and inconveniences brought about by shipboard life. The Board further noted that MFSI 10.3.08 specifically provides that certain environmental allowances are not payable if the member is in receipt of HA; the SDA is not one of those allowances which is suggestive of an entitlement to both benefits.

The Board was unable to find any provision in the applicable regulations or any TB direction/instruction that would disentitle a member from receiving both allowances.

Pursuant to S. 35 (2) of the National Defence Act, the determination and regulation of allowances for members of the CF is the sole prerogative of the TB. Absent TB concurrence, the DGCB does not have the authority to decide a benefit is not payable when members are plainly eligible. In this case, the DGCB has impermissibly arrogated to themselves the regulation of the HA and SDA benefits. It is not for the DGCB to "reasonably imply" or otherwise seek to twist the plain meaning of regulations to suit their own purposes.

The Board noted that the DGCB denial of the payment of both HA and SDA has been in effect since 2 September 2003 and, as a result, there are a considerable number of CF members who have been deployed on maritime operations who have also been denied the benefit of both allowances.

Recommendation

The Board recommended that the service of all members who have deployed on maritime operations be reviewed and the HA or SDA, as applicable, be paid to these members.

Final Authority Decision

The CDS did not agree with the systemic recommendation.

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